No one could have forecast how 2001 would turn out, and having just
gone through the year gone by, we can only wonder what 2002 will bring.
As far as PR goes, some of the industry's leading figures give their
thoughts on what lies ahead.
VP of Public Affairs
Dallas Fort Worth Airport
US airports have literally been on the front lines of the war against
terrorism. It is going to be incumbent upon the entire travel industry
to continue to enhance public perception of both security and
convenience. We are finding that people want security, but they don't
want it to be so onerous that it's inconvenient. From the airport
standpoint, very effective communication with the traveling public about
the new security rules is going to be absolutely critical. Next, it's
going to be more bomb-scan machines, which have to be in place by
December 31, 2002, and will have to be explained to passengers.
Airports are going to have to collectively tell a consistent story on
what's going on from the standpoints of customers, the airlines, and
governmental regulation. Some airports communicate better than others,
and it will be incumbent on every airport to tell the customers what it
is specifically doing on those three fronts. I've seen some huge
airports that don't communicate squat to people. Coming to this airport
is like going to a department store: You make a choice.
Airlines will have to be more proactive as well. There's plenty of
communication you can do that won't breach security, but will make
customers feel a lot better about what's happening. Our airport was
extremely involved in the aviation security bill, and several of our
suggestions were included in the final draft. I think that there will
continue to be more emphasis on the public affairs side, and we'll get
called in more and more to provide input.
I also think you will see more op-ed pieces from airports, aiming to
really explain what their priorities are for themselves, as well as for
the areas they serve. For North Texas, Dallas Fort Worth is considered
the main economic engine, and one of the things that was cut after
September 11 was tours of the airport. There are a lot of community
groups and schools that really enjoy coming to the airport and touring,
so we will be revamping and retooling that program.
Rogers & Cowan
I think it's going to be more difficult for PR people to get stories
into magazines and newspapers because periodicals are going to be
There is going to be more reality and less fluff. Some periodicals have
already collapsed, and everyone's budget is down, so there is less money
for advertising. The competition for attention and space will be such
that we will have to be more creative in the coming year. That's
something I've always believed in: creating news. The world of celebrity
will continue to be as strong as possible.
The Julia Robertses, Brad Pitts, and George Clooneys will still be
sought after for the major endorsements, but the flavor of the month
changes. The truth of the matter is that clients come and go, but the
media is constant. Jeff Garcia, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers,
will be much sought after for endorsements in the coming year. He's like
the new Joe Montana.
Film premieres will remain the same. I handled PR on the original
Ocean's Eleven, and what occurred to me at the premiere of the remake
was that the event was practically the same as the premiere 25 years
ago. What I saw was something that has happened for the last 50 years:
It was glamorous, and obviously very expensive.
You're talking to someone who has been acquired twice in his career, but
I am now firmly convinced that there will be more boutique-type
operations such as the one I have now, because the economics (of a big
agency) become so formidable. I think that in 2002, we will go into a
brighter economic period.
SVP, director of corporate affairs
It's harder now than at any time in recent memory to look ahead with any
degree of confidence as to what is going to happen. There are some
interesting questions that we face - not just as PR people, but also as
individuals. One of the things we are grappling with is, was September
11 phenomenal in nature, and will the fallout diminish over time? Or,
did it usher in a whole new era? How we answer that question has
profound implications for how we communicate. One thing we have to do is
prevent people from making precipitous judgments.
I think that next year, you will see increased focus being paid to
In times of vast physical and intellectual dislocation, brands take on
additional value. Consumers are looking for authenticity and family
I think that bodes well for companies that have a brand. Brands are a
beacon through the darkness. Where companies get into trouble is when
they view branding as a marketing conceit.
Another thing you may see more of next year is greater attention to
advocacy or affinity marketing. You may see more attention paid, in the
financial services category, to women in investing. There will be more
of a need for companies to understand their target markets. We've tried
to do the type of PR that's expansive of mankind's body of knowledge;
that's where PR will have a lot of traction with consumers. Finding
things you can do to help point the way for people - that kind of PR
will do really well.
What won't do well is marketing conceits and contrivances - the bells
and whistles without the substance. People's tolerance for that will be
a lot less going forward. That goes to people's need for truthfulness
and authenticity. People are less pointed outward, and are looking
Edelman PR Worldwide
The end of the Gulf War to the end of this summer - that 10-year
period - was really a time where business dominated the American agenda.
After September 11, people all of a sudden realized that they have a
much greater reliance on government - a greater need to trust in the
government - because business just can't do certain things for them. And
because of that, I think there's a real question about how effectively a
company will be able to resist the short-term demands the government may
make upon it in 2002. A good example is Bayer on Cipro pricing: Bayer
had a very legitimate and important point to make about patent
protection. But right now, it's very difficult for an intellectual
argument to beat an emotional argument, particularly if the guys on the
other side are the federal government.
The speed with which one has to react to these things has also totally
changed; it's almost political time now, as opposed to business
In some ways, businesses will face the same sort of expectations that
apply to the President: If things are going wrong for him, he should
quickly change his policy. With the government taking on business on
some issues, the window for response will be shorter.
Finally, I think crisis management will continue to be fundamentally
changed by the rise of the talk show, and the popularization of these
issues. It's almost the 1890s, like the old populists with their
pitchforks. Like it or not, guys like Bill O'Reilly have got a
constituency. I'm not saying you have to give in to what O'Reilly says.
You don't necessarily have to go on his show and have him berate you and
humiliate you. But you've got to fight him.
You have to communicate. In 2002, you will not have the choice to
abdicate and leave the field open.
Chairman and CEO, DAS Omnicom
If I'm asked by anyone what area of marketing or communications to get
into, I always say, 'Go into PR.' It might have not quite come of age,
but it is coming of age. Clients are clearly recognizing the overriding
power of PR. It has evolved and will keep on evolving from a crisis tool
to a way of creating a brand. Every year, more and more brand managers
turn to the discipline, and 2002 will be no different.
What we're going to see in the big communications groups like Omnicom is
the increasing use of a spectrum of continuous communications, utilizing
lots of different skills and agencies within the group. We are no longer
preparing brands for the market, but preparing the market for
The creation of One Blue for IBM and the way we work for Pepsi or
Chrysler has certainly created a model for the way we work with global
corporations, drawing on the right intellectual capital from anywhere in
the agency at any time, depending on the assignment. We will see more of
this methodology: It's not about innovation any more, but about
accelerating the speed of innovation and the speed at which we can take
products to market.
In terms of healthcare, an area we believe we really own, 2002 will be
better financially than 2001, which was not bad in itself. We'll see
fewer blockbuster drugs making it onto the market in the near future.
But we'll see more $400 million-$500 million market
entrants in therapeutic areas such as cardiovascular, arthritis,
Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, and anti-infectives. Because of that, there
are serious opportunities for Omnicom to represent clients from test
tube to market.
Will the consolidation continue? Well, to put it simply, if we see more
Fleishman-Hillards, Ketchums, and Porter Novellis out there, it
VP of corporate communications, Exelon
Outgoing PRSA president,
Perhaps by the third quarter of 2002, corporate spending on PR will pick
up. It's going to take that long for all the fixes the federal
government has put in to have some effect. I don't see any good times in
the job market or in outside PR spending until then. In our case, we'll
spend the minimum on branding and advertising.
As for the PR job market, it seems as if it's slowly picking up, but I
know there are a lot of people in PR who are out of work. That's not
going to turn around quickly; it's going to be a go-slow-type
When it does turn around, though, seasoned PR is going to be very valued
because of September 11 and the economy. Experience is going to count
for even more in the future - just look at Jack Bergen going to
Agencies would do well looking for experience and someone who has been
out there in a foxhole - some-one who has gone through hard times in the
past. It could be a tough job market for the 30-somethings as a result.
The 20-somethings and 30-somethings just don't possess the experience
base; they haven't had the personal dealings with tough times.
The world has obviously changed, and we can't go back. We have to set a
new standard of what's normal. That's where the senior, experienced PR
professional, both at the agency and the corporate level, is going to be
a more cherished commodity. You have got to be a leader; you have got to
know the business. No more one-trick ponies in this business if you are
going to be a valuable commodity.
In the spirit of Marcus Tullius Cic-ero ("Let us not go over old ground,
let us rather prepare for what is to come") and speaking as the only
PRWeek prognosticator who has actually worked as a fortune-telling
psychic, here are my predictions for 2002.
Marketing managers and other decision-makers in a position to hire PR
agencies will express a profound aversion to risk during new-business
deliberations - prospective clients are already beginning competitive
reviews with RFPs sent to dozens - even hundreds - of agencies,
extending shootouts over periods of weeks and months, and seeking firms
that can prove they have directly transferrable past experience.
Small firms will continue to take on larger agencies head-to-head, and
vanquish them. (What did you expect a small-agency president to say,
eh?) Our state's (Minnesota) largest PR agency recently lost the
fiercely coveted target market anti-tobacco business to Clarity
Coverdale Fury, an advertising agency whose entire PR department could
fit into the front seat of a Toyota.
As technology further levels the gladiatorial PR field, larger agencies
may still dominate the award shows in 2002 - but their scrappy,
diminutive rivals will increasingly out-maneuver them in the PR
Public Affairs Council
Crisis communications is out, crisis avoidance is in.
I think we'll see greater corporate self-examination of business
practices internationally. Companies are now asking, "How are we
Are we creating win-win relationships in countries where we do
business?" As a result of the terrorist attacks and the realization of
anti-US feelings around the world, companies now ask themselves, "What
part did we play in this?"
Also, there will be an increased awareness of how fragile the corporate
brand really is. So many dollars are spent on branding efforts, making a
company's brand a household name here and around the world. We do that
on the assumption that everybody buys into the American way of looking
at things. We're discovering that that's not always the case around the
world. At the same time, the internet has become more widely used for
organizing and attacking brands, leading to anti-corporate advocacy
efforts to try and get companies to change their behavior. Many
companies that have invested millions in building their brand awareness
have not invested as much money in strategically protecting it.
We'll also see a much greater use of PR tactics in our government to
support foreign-policy objectives. We've already come a long way in a
few short months in terms of using PR and public affairs in diplomacy
and trying to communicate what we're all about. We're going to see a
tremendous ramping up of this, and not just in quantity, but in quality
As for elections, until September 2001, nobody talked about foreign
I think you're going to see that anyone running for national office is
going to try and prove that he is the bigger foreign-policy expert than
the next guy, and that he has the ability to make the country feel
I think we'll see more and more ex-military people running for office
and people who have greater international expertise. Perhaps this may
even attract better people to run for office.
APR, CPRC, PhD, Fellow PRSA
Public Relations & Advertising Sequence Head of Department of
Florida State University
After the tragedy of September 11, no profession is better positioned to
lead the recovery than PR. Consider the following: The fundamental
function of public relations is fostering and maintaining positive
relationships between an organization and its publics. After any
crisis - and especially after September 11 - the trust between
organizations and their publics has eroded. Consumer confidence has
waned. The American public is unsure.
What will PR do to change all this? First, recent successes in
Afghanistan have begun to restore confidence in government. We would
never know anything about the events there were it not for public
information activities of the government. These PR activities will
continue, and will help to underpin the restoration of public
confidence. Smart organizations have already moved to re-engage their
most important publics: their employees. Others most certainly will
Although the generosity of the American people was certainly evident,
contributions to the rest of the nonprofit sector have diminished
significantly. Look for a major push from these organizations toward
Although the economy seems to have turned around slightly, spending is
still down. Aggressive organizations will step up PR and marketing
efforts to spur consumer spending. Creative approaches to selling will
be closely tied to new business development, and PR will have the
responsibility to help restore consumer confidence.
The coming year should see a rethink of how organizations respond to
crisis. Old plans will be reviewed, and new plans will be developed.
Specialty firms whose focus is the role of PR during and after terrorism
will be created. Finally, forward-thinking organizations will step up
activities related to corporate social responsibility. As employees and
customers seek to regain normalcy, effective organizations should see
the need to demonstrate their willingness to put people first.
President and CEO
We are in for a continuing recession, caused not just by the economic
condition we would normally face, but also by the threat of terrorism,
which has crippled tourism.
PR firms that do not recognize the communications needs of dealing with
the terrorist threat and the recession, and who instead try to go back
to the old days of straight press agentry, will have a terrible
Now, we have to put the client into the context not only of a recession,
but the threat of war.
In 2002, with the stress of an economy that's failing, with crises
coming up almost every day, people being fired, and stresses on
countries, individuals, nations, and businesses, PR is going to come
into its own. The corporations dealing with these issues without ample
PR advice are apt to be eviscerated in the media.
New York - City and State - will face multibillion-dollar deficits. So
in the cultural field, there will be a huge demand for PR. Hospitals,
nonprofits, and the whole philanthropy field face huge problems in
explaining that they have to cut back. The demand for local PR will be
We're working for many of the groups that are trying to bring NYC back,
trying to bring them together on an overall focus to encourage tourism,
and bring New Yorkers back into their own restaurants.
People are having a hard time placing stories in the tabloids. It's all
about the war. The celebrity agencies are having to work the columns
more and go to the specialist sections. If you've been making a living
through the Metro or A sections, it's tough. You have to involve your
clients in things that affect the community more. The recent Bill
O'Reilly report serves as a warning to celebrities that they must follow
through on their good deeds.
I expect across the board, probably next year, there will be a falloff
of 15%-20% through clients cutting budgets. They'll keep the firms on,
but cut payments. We will also see a number of people trying to leave
agency PR altogether. Smaller firms will merge with one another.
One-man/woman shops will leave, maybe going into teaching - not into
Some will try to seek full-time jobs with corporations in PR. The better
agencies will survive with some strength, but the ones that don't
provide unusual services will be in trouble.
It's now an issue of giving the best service you can. You have to give
more than you're charging for. Don't measure the hours, and don't
measure the effort. Firms will reduce their flat monthly fees, and
retainers will be coming down.
After September 11, the amount of hard-news coverage has risen greatly,
and the amount of focus the public gives to hard news has increased
significantly as well. Looking ahead, I think that the mainstream media
will continue to be more attentive to serious political, governmental,
and international developments, far more than in years past. And I think
there will be great trepidation about that in the world of entertainment
A lot of people who are new to this game have never known anything but a
flourishing economy, and a state of the world that impinges not at all
on the things they do; there's been nothing like a depression, or even a
real recession, or cataclysmic international events that impact
everything and anybody. Next year, some of the young people who are just
starting their careers in entertainment PR may sort of question what the
hell they're doing with themselves.
The other reality is that many more of the reporters and editors they'll
be pitching are going to have other things on their mind, and might want
to talk about something other than what's being pitched.
In 2002, it will help a publicist to have some awareness of the larger
world. At the risk of sounding like a cynic, it will help to read the
whole newspaper. It will help to watch the whole newscast. It will help
to have a general awareness of the world beyond the prism within which
you work. Especially within the fluff business that I do much work in as
a publicist, people will be better at pitching stories if they have a
clue as to what the world is really all about.